UK agency had warning of flooding in Pakistan

The impact of devastating floods that tore through Pakistan last summer affecting more than 20m people and leaving more than 1,500 dead, could have been greatly reduced if information gathered by weather monitors in Europe about imminent rains had been shared with the authorities in Islamabad.

At least five days before intense monsoon rains triggered flooding in the north of the country, computer models at a weather forecasting centre based in the UK were strongly suggesting the torrential rainfall was imminent. Had that information been properly processed, claim researchers, it could even had forecast the extent of the floods themselves.

“This disaster could have been minimised and even the flooding could have been minimised,” said Peter Webster, a professor of earth and atmospheric science at the Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta. “If we were working with Pakistan, they would have known eight to 10 days in advance that the floods were coming.”

The claims by Dr Webster and his team come as Pakistan continues to grapple with the impact of the unprecedented flooding, which inundated a fifth of the country’s terrain and damaged 5.4m acres of arable land. Food shortages and malnutrition, homelessness and mental trauma are problems still affecting countless thousands of people. The UN recently warned malnutrition in some of the country’s southern areas now matched that in African countries that had suffered famine. Meanwhile, a recent study by Save the Children, found almost 90 per cent of children in affected areas were suffering from stress.

“The situation here is very bad. On one hand you have an agricultural system that was destroyed and we are not expecting any crops until May, and even then at a lower yield than normal,” said Khurram Khalid, of Save the Children. “There is also the problem from having had so many homes destroyed. They were mostly just mud and wood.”

Dr Webster and his team examined data from the European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasting (ECMWF), which is based in Reading and involves 33 participating countries. In a paper to be published in a forthcoming scientific journal, the researchers said the data suggested there was sufficient information available to have confidently predicted the flooding. However, this information was not passed into the Pakistani authorities. The accuracy of forecasts by meteorologists in Pakistan was mixed.

A spokesman for the ECMWF, Manfred Kloeppel, confirmed the information regarding the imminent deluge had been available. “We verified our forecasts with the weather as it occurred and five to seven days [before] there was a clear indication of torrential rain in this area,” he said.

However Mr Kloeppel said the ECMWF, with which Pakistan is not associated, only provided numerical data which was passed on to meteorologists in its member states and did not make actual forecasts. He said the data was also available globally via the World Meteorological Organisation. (WMO). “It’s speculation but I don’t know whether this data was looked at or ignored. I don’t know. It was definitely available,” he said. No-one was available for comment last night from Pakistan’s Meteorological Department.

Mr Webster said he spent five years developing a flood-forecasting system for Bangladesh as part of an agreement with his university and the authorities in Dhaka. He said he is due to take part in a forthcoming meeting of developing nations in Bangkok where he hopes to build support for a similar warning system in Pakistan. He believes it could cost as little as $100,000 a year to run and hopes to persuade the World Bank to fund the project. He said that when floods struck several years ago in Bangladesh, his team was able to provide warnings that saved countless lives and millions of dollars.

“The worst thing about the floods in Pakistan, other than people losing their lives, is that they have lost everything. Now they are impoverished,” Mr Webster told The Independent. “To get people out of the way of floods you need five or six days. Actually preventing floods requires major investment in infrastructure in dams and barrages. But you can quite cheaply set up a flood warning system.”

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Administrative Assistant / Order Fulfilment

£14000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An exciting opportunity to join a thrivi...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Uncapped OTE: SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consulta...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Uncapped OTE: SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consulta...

Recruitment Genius: Production Operative

£13000 - £17000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Due to a period of sustained an...

Day In a Page

Refugee crisis: David Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia - will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi?

Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia...

But will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi, asks Robert Fisk
Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Humanity must be at the heart of politics, says Jeremy Corbyn
Joe Biden's 'tease tour': Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?

Joe Biden's 'tease tour'

Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?
Britain's 24-hour culture: With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever

Britain's 24-hour culture

With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever
8 best children's clocks

Tick-tock: 8 best children's clocks

Whether you’re teaching them to tell the time or putting the finishing touches to a nursery, there’s a ticker for that
Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

The Arab Spring reversed

Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

Who is Oliver Bonas?

It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

60 years of Scalextric

Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones
Theme parks continue to draw in thrill-seekers despite the risks - so why are we so addicted?

Why are we addicted to theme parks?

Now that Banksy has unveiled his own dystopian version, Christopher Beanland considers the ups and downs of our endless quest for amusement
Tourism in Iran: The country will soon be opening up again after years of isolation

Iran is opening up again to tourists

After years of isolation, Iran is reopening its embassies abroad. Soon, there'll be the chance for the adventurous to holiday there
10 best PS4 games

10 best PS4 games

Can’t wait for the new round of blockbusters due out this autumn? We played through last year’s offering